Catholic epologists like to assail the perspicuity of Scripture. There are, however, some basic problems with their stereotypical objections. I’ll concentrate on three:
1.When we affirm (or deny) that a text (or speech) is clear, does this have reference to objective clarity or subjective clarity?
i) Take traffic signs. Traffic signs are meant to be objectively clear. Each different traffic sign has a different meaning. And each one has a single meaning. It’s meaning is designed to be unambiguous. Only intended to mean one thing. A traffic sign isn’t subject to interpretation.
ii) This, however, doesn’t mean that traffic signs are subjectively clear. Indeed, unless you know the symbology, their significance is fairly opaque.
But their subjective ambiguity (indeed, opacity) doesn’t count against their objective clarity.
So when a Catholic epologist tries to disprove the perspicuity of Scripture by pointing to “33,000” denominations, that wouldn’t undermine the objective clarity of Scripture, for even if we accept that bogus figure, subjective clarity, or the lack thereof, isn’t synonymous with objective clarity.
You might as well invoke the number of traffic citations that drivers receive every year to prove the ambiguity of traffic signs. The meaning of the signage can be univocal even though multitudes of drivers disregard it.
2.On the one hand, Catholic epologists assure us that Scripture is not perspicuous. And they cite whatever evidence they think proves their point.
On the other hand, we can find the very same Catholic epologists attempting to prooftext Catholic theology from the Bible. They quote the Bible to prove Catholic faith and morals. They also quote the Bible to disprove Protestant faith and morals.
Oftentimes, they don’t even bother to interpret their prooftexts. They’ll simply quote a catena of verses, as if their meaning were self-explanatory.
And if a Protestant takes issue with their prooftext, they will accuse him of playing fast-and-loose with the plain sense of the text. It’s only because the Protestant comes to the Bible with his Protestant theological commitments or hermeneutical method that he refuses to acknowledge what the Catholic prooftext “plainly” teaches.
So the Catholic objection to Biblical perspicuity boils down to this:
Scripture is perspicuous whenever it happens to prove Catholic faith and morals, or disprove Protestant faith and morals.
Scripture is never perspicuous when it happens to prove Protestant faith and morals, or disprove Catholic faith and morals.
3.The Catholic objection to the sufficiency of Scripture is often at odds with the Catholic objection to the perspicuity of Scripture.
On the one hand, a Catholic epologist will say the Bible can’t be perspicuous since the vast majority of Christians didn’t find what the Protestant Reformers discovered in Scripture.
On the other hand, a Catholic epologist will say the Bible can’t be sufficient since the vast majority of Christian up until modern times were Biblically illiterate.
All-in-all, I’m struck by the absence of perspicuity in Catholic objections to perspicuity.